March 30, 2007
Bill could delay lifting of ban on Mexican truck travel
Rep. Hunter wants background checks
By Paul M. Krawzak
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – Legislation introduced in
Congress yesterday could delay the Bush administration's
plan to lift a longstanding ban on Mexican truck travel
throughout the United States.
A pilot program to allow some Mexican truckers into the
United States had been scheduled to begin next month.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, an opponent of the plan,
introduced one of the bills, which would allow police to
gain access to the same kind of criminal background
information on Mexican truckers as they can pull up on
Another bill introduced yesterday would require the
Department of Transportation to seek public comment on the
pilot program before it is launched and would limit the
program to one year.
Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., sponsored the bill, which has
the support of House Transportation Committee Chairman
James Oberstar, D-Minn.
Oberstar is not supporting Hunter's bill and has not
said if he will allow it to get a hearing in committee.
U.S. Department of Transportation officials had wanted
to launch the pilot program by the end of April, allowing
100 Mexican trucking companies to haul cargo throughout
the United States. Under the program, U.S. inspectors
would visit trucking operations in Mexico to examine their
trucks, books and safety records.
While Mexican truckers from across the U.S.-Mexico
border region would be enrolled in the pilot program, 500
of the 800 Mexican companies that previously applied for
access are from Baja California.
Current rules allow Mexican truck drivers to go no
farther than 25 miles inside the country. In San Diego
County, many drivers transfer their loads to U.S.
operators for delivery to the U.S. interior. Some Mexican
fleet owners have operations in both countries.
The pilot program could lead to a complete lifting of
The plan to open the borders to Mexican trucks dates
back to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which
included a provision allowing U.S., Mexican and Canadian
truckers to travel freely throughout the three countries.
Concerns about the safety of Mexican trucks and
pressure from Congress have blocked Mexican truckers from
access to U.S. markets since the provision was scheduled
to go into effect in 1995.
Hunter said his bill would require Mexican truckers to
meet the same standards as American truckers.
One of the most important provisions, he said, would
require the federal government to certify that when a
Mexican trucker is pulled over, police could pull up the
same kind of background information on the Mexican as they
could on an American driver. He said that should include
criminal violations, such as drug convictions.
He said the database used by Mexican authorities to
verify a driver's identification, driving record and
criminal history should be equivalent to that used in the
Currently, U.S. law does not require a criminal
background check for U.S. truck drivers unless they want
to be certified to haul hazardous materials.
Police typically can check any driver's traffic record
and check for outstanding criminal warrants. A complete
criminal records examination generally takes some time.
The Bush administration insists it has put in place
sufficient safeguards for the pilot program.
In a statement in reaction to Hunter's bill, the
Department of Transportation said the program “will bring
real benefits and real dollars to the American economy
while maintaining all U.S. safety and security standards.”
The statement added that the agency “is committed to
moving forward with this program and will continue to work
with members of Congress to address their concerns.”
Officials at the Mexican embassy also expressed support
for the program.
“We want to reiterate that Mexican carriers operating
in the U.S., like any U.S. carrier, will comply with all
statutory and regulatory requirements in terms of safety
and security of the vehicles and their drivers,” an
embassy spokesman said.
research contributed to this report.